iPad is not a MacBook replacement; iPadOS should not become macOS

Apple’s iPad is not a MacBook replacement, nor should iPadOS aspire to become macOS. In the face of news that Apple is bringing trackpads to the company’s detachable iPad Pro keyboards, it bears repeating that the iPad and the Mac are two distinct computing devices and they should remain as such.

iPad not a MacBook replacement
Apple’s 11-inch and 12.9-inch iPad Pro models
Neil Cybart for Above Avalon:

There was no shortage of writers, pundits, and industry analysts using the iPad’s 10th anniversary to give eulogies for the product in terms of its inability to be revolutionary, grab momentum, or even just meet expectations… I hold a very different view of the iPad at 10 years old. In recapping the 2010s, I went so far as to position the iPad as one of two most important tech products of the decade (the iPhone being the other one). The iPad has become ubiquitous in various industries and sectors, and in the process, it has altered modern computing… The iPad is currently shaping industries far more than some people are giving the product credit for. There are at least 350 million people using an iPad in some capacity…

The iPad has become a line in the sand between those who grew up on laptops and desktops and those who never felt comfortable with such devices. Apple finds itself walking a thin line when it comes to adding functionality to the iPad for some users while keeping the device’s simplicity and intuitiveness front and center for other users… Going a week with no laptop or desktop usage will do interesting things to one’s perception about computing and intuitiveness. When returning to a laptop or desktop, the machines feel like taking a step back. Our brain has to be rewired to handle something that is inherently less intuitive.

MacDailyNews Take: Yes.

We find that there are many older users longing to make iPad work like a laptop, because that’s what they know. Take a look at a twelve-year-old who’s only really ever used an iPad for personal computing. It’s an eyeopener. It’s like looking into the future. The answer isn’t to try to make the iPad into a MacBook. The answer is to provide all the tools possible in iOS for developers to make robust apps that can take advantage of the multi-touch paradigm. — MacDailyNews, May 16, 2017

The iPad’s primary problem is that it is viewed by some as needing to be a laptop replacement in order to have any value. This unrealistic viewpoint has resulted in a type of expectational debt being placed on the device. The iPad is expected to become more like the Mac and macOS over time. This is problematic as the iPad is not a laptop replacement.

MacOS should not be positioned as inspiration for where to bring the iPad or iPadOS… The takeaway is that the iPad has become a different kind of product, and it should be allowed to stand apart from the iPhone without being forced to replace macOS.

MacDailyNews Take: As we wrote on the occasion of the iPad’s tenth birthday, the value of an iPad depends, as always, on what you do. If you write (blog), you need a good keyboard, you need precise cursor control, and you need to be able to cut/copy/paste accurately and quickly. As all written reviews are from writers, and the iPad is inferior to a MacBook for writing, what you’ll read is heavier on the criticism than from say, an artist. For an artist, an iPad is a total revolution. Ditto for musicians. But artists and musicians write far fewer reviews than writers (duh), so all we end up hearing about is an endless stream of how the iPad keyboard “sucks,” how iPad needs circa-1984 mouse support, and “where’s my trackpad?”

We use MacBook Pros to write. If iPad had a keyboard anywhere near as good as our 16-inch MacBook Pros and allowed us to quickly and accurately select and move text snippets, we’d use it more for writing. If iPad had coherent, intuitive multi-tasking and we could use it to quickly assemble images and insert them into our articles, we’d use it more. But, right now, it cannot come close to working as well and as quickly on both counts as our MacBook Pros.

If an artist or musician or someone from any number of other disciplines (almost every high-level exec we know today uses an iPad Pro far more than a laptop, if they still even have a laptop) were to write about the iPad, the story would be completely the opposite. iPad works far better for what they’re doing than a MacBook Pro. For many, Apple’s iPad transformed computing long ago.

Our main gripe about iPad is about iPadOS, not the brilliant hardware, and that we feel Apple should be further along that they are now because what they’re offering currently significantly lacks intuitiveness and discovery. This is because the company lost their sole judge of user-friendliness and have not yet been able to construct a reliable system of replacing that singular point of judgement. This is why nobody can just pick up an iPad and figure out how to multitask with it today. If you have to read the manual, that’s not the Apple way; Steve would have repeatedly sent them back to get it right and make it discoverable before he’d ship it.

iPad’s multitasking certainly screams for a rethink. But it, along with add-on keyboards and rudimentary mouse support, signals Apple’s confusion as to what to do with iPad, what iPad is for, how iPad is supposed to work, and what iPad’s supposed to be. Steve Jobs had an idea of what iPad was meant to become, we’re fairly certain, but it seems to have gotten muddled since he passed too soon after iPad’s birth.

If we could boil down iPad’s problem, it comes down to an overall problem Apple has had seemingly since Steve Jobs’ death: Discoverability. Used to be, you could grab an Apple product and intuitively figure it out. That interesting, but half-baked ideas like 3D Touch and Touch Bars and iPad split-view multitasking whatever somehow made it to the public (we all know why: the final arbiter, the guy who’d send his engineers and designers back to their drawing boards the minute something wasn’t user-friendly enough was gone). These things, especially iPad multitasking, are simply not discoverable or intuitive or consistent and it’s in those very things where Apple misses Steve Jobs the most today.MacDailyNews, January 28, 2020

The absence of Steve Jobs grows ever more apparent with the introduction of each new Apple product, service, and app. At today’s Apple, the lack of an omnipotent arbiter of taste glares like a klieg light.MacDailyNews, October 1, 2017

A team of people – talented people who actually get it and who are all on the same page – is an absolute necessity for Apple’s success, but it creates a problem: Jobs was a single filter. A unified mind. The founder. A group of people simply cannot replicate that. This is not to say that they cannot do great work (we believe Apple does, and will continue, to do great work) just that Apple is fundamentally affected by the loss of Steve Jobs and has to figure out a new way to work. — MacDailyNews, April 8, 2014

Interns, beloved interns, Tap That Keg™, please! Prost and good health, everyone!


  1. As a musician, the iPad is useless except for music reading – I use forScore constantly for that purpose. What I need out of the iPad is a truly useful app for writing music, not sampling or audio editing/recording. None of the current apps out there are worth a lick. I use Finale exclusively for that, but MakeMusic seems to have no plans to bring that app to the iPad. If MakeMusic did that, I’d have much less reason to use my MacBook Pro…

  2. The iPad Pro should take the step to computer. The ipad can remain as it is, purposeful as a personal device. The Pro version should become more “pro”. The difference is the in the Spen and the display quality. Both have become “a thing” for visual artists in various disciplines, lacking only the ability to utilize full fledge software. The mouse is a nice functionality step even needed in some pro software, but really it’s the pen and the display that differs it from laptops. I hoped iPadOS would’ve opened the Pro to pro software sometime in the near future rather than later. Let the Pro become really pro.

    1. Yes, John Bolton, your screen name is faker beyond
      Fake, hawker beyond hawk. Let the Trump be Trump.

      Actually jokes aside, you’re right, let the Pro be Pro. This will come, Pro apps are already on the way, the good news is that they’ll also work on regular iPads too but are optimized for and run faster and better iPad Pros.

  3. The iPad makes sense if it makes what you do easier then say on a computer. But I don’t understand those who seem to struggle more using a iPad vs computer? Or they keep buying more accessories hoping it will fix what the iPad lacks. I see Apple trying the same with iPadOS which is tacking on non intuitive features to try and fix issues. Like trying to make a carpenter hammer a sledge hammer. They both do very well what they are designed to do. The iPad is a tool being forced to go beyond its intended uses.

    1. The iPad is a very versatile tool that has been bent well beyond its intended uses from day one. It’s a testament to the ingenuity of users who know that rules are meant to be broken, absolutely. Thank you smart users! Mr Bolton, I mean Olton, buy a Magic Trackpad 2 and discover for yourself what using an iPad is now like in April 2020, and you’ll discover a world of intended uses and users you didn’t know existed! Feast your eyes and experiences on that big falcon rocket, Mr Hawk! “Eugene” indeed… well played, Mr “Olton”, we know you’re at a loose end now that your political adventures are in hiatus and all of the secrets are already spilled from your book. Well done though 🙂 (PS try the veal, it’s on the menu all week and is tastier than the fi/sh)

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